Contrary to Finance Minister Yair Lapid's post on his Facebook page denying plans to raise university tuition fees, it emerged Tuesday that the Treasury had in fact authorized talks on the matter with students and that negotiations were indeed underway - though no official plan has yet been approved.
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Lapid earlier Tuesday denied that his ministry was planning to raise tuition fees aand was exploring the possibility of cutting the institutions’ budgets.
In a Facebook status update addressing Israeli students directly, Lapid wrote: "This is a media spin. I woke up this morning to learn that a war was declared against a cut that never existed. If I knew this would harm students, I would have driven to my own home to strike against myself."
Lapid, referring to announcements made following a meeting Monday night between representatives of the ministry’s Budget Department and Uri Rashtik, the chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students, added on his Facebook page: "It is sad that student union representatives are using the oldest political tricks. As you know, the upcoming budget places the working class at the center. Not just Riki Cohen but also her son, who wants to study computer engineering."
Yoni Regev, deputy head of the budget department, which is responsible for higher education, conducted the talks on behalf of the Treasury. Uri Rashtik, chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students, represented the students.
The talks were held against the backdrop of the Treasury's known tendency to hike university tuition or, alternately, to cut the state’s support for higher education in the framework of the projected budget cuts for 2013-2014.
Speaking with the students, Regev stressed that his plan was only in the proposal stage and has not yet received the minister's approval.
Every time the economy finds itself in distress, the Treasury invariably whips out its toolbox in an attempt to increase university tuition fees. On his own Facebook page this week, journalist Haim Har-Zahav recalled conversations he with Finance Ministry Director-General designate Yael Andorn in 2002 and 2003, when he was vice chairman of the Union of Students in Jerusalem and the Treasury demanded an increase in tuition fees.